On August 20, 2009—during the hottest part of the year—a ten-week-old pit bull/shepherd mix puppy lay dying in a park in Greensboro, North Carolina. She had been hiding and wandering there in fear and desperation for about ten days. A man who was walking his dogs in the park found the puppy—barely alive—and took action.
The puppy was taken to the Guilford County Animal Shelter. The shelter director, Marsha Williams, and her staff quickly determined that they would do whatever they could to help the puppy, which had been badly beaten and had suffered second- and third-degree burns over most of her little body.
They named the puppy Susie and began working diligently to try to save her life. The wounds from her burns were covered with more than 300 maggots, which had to be removed one-by-one from her tortured skin. Those maggots had probably saved Susie’s life by eating any infection. Second- and third-degree burns had been inflicted on over 60 percent of Susie’s body, and her ears were essentially gone.
For months, Susie endured daily treatments to heal her body. She was frequently anesthetized for these sessions because her pain and suffering would have been too great.
Susie was eventually taken in by foster parents, Roberta and Bob Wall, who supervised and aided her healing process. A few months later, Susie was adopted by her “forever parents,” Donna and Roy Lawrence.
Sometime later, LaShawn Whitehead, 21, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was arrested for abusing Susie. He faced animal-cruelty charges, among others. His excuse for attacking the helpless puppy that belonged to his girlfriend was that the puppy licked his baby in the face. By his own admission, he said that he snapped and went into a rage. He began beating the puppy, breaking her jaw and knocking out several teeth. Then he dragged her outside, where he poured lighter fluid all over her body and set her on fire.
Terrified and in agony, the puppy ran for her life and hid in a nearby park. Only Susie knows the extent of the fear, pain, hunger, and thirst that she endured for ten long days as she waited for a compassionate stranger to discover and help her.
Susie and her story of survival are the subject of a new movie, appropriately named Susie, which documents her remarkable comeback and the people behind it. Susie’s case inspired N.C. Senate Bill 254, known as “Susie’s Law,” which strengthened punishments for animal abusers.
A theatrical release is planned for 2013.